Updated: Thursday, 19 Feb 2009, 7:14 PM EST
Published : Thursday, 19 Feb 2009, 7:14 PM EST
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - It rumbled down the tracks at close to 80 miles per hour. The
horn blared as it closed in on the teenager walking on the tracks.
But Alan Eaton-Chandler may never have heard the Amtrak train coming.
Would you hear it if you were wearing earbuds or headphones?
That is one of the questions as investigators look for answers into the death of the Kalamazoo County teen, struck and killed by a train Tuesday afternoon.
Witnesses say Eaton-Chandler was wearing earphones when the Amtrak train struck him from behind.
You wouldn't think a few pieces of plastic that make up a set of earbuds wouldn't be able to drown out the noise around you.
But what 24 Hour News 8 found may surprise you.
We talked with Kenric Van Wyk, president of Acoustics by Design. His company's job is sound -- how to control it and how to measure it in decibels, or DBAs.
We took him to the corner of 28th Street and Madison Avenue in southeast Grand Rapids.
"The noise level is in the 75 to 80 DBA range," said Van Wyk as he points the microphone-tipped meter toward the traffic.
"That's pretty loud."
But perhaps not as loud as the sound coming through the
headphones of many MP3 players.
Even the sounds of a freight train can be masked by the sounds from a set of earbuds.
24 Hour News 8 moved to a set of train tracks off Freeman Street in southwest Grand Rapids.
"We are measuring 85 to 90 DBA," said Van Wyk as a train passed.
While the locomotive would easily be heard by the naked ear, a
pair wrapped in headphones may not pick up the sound as well or as
"You'd think a train would be so loud you wouldn't be able to hear anything else but the train. But when you're wearing iPod earbuds it can isolate you from the rest of the world," said audiologist Beckie Kaczmarski of Kaczmarski Hearing Services.
At peak levels the sound on an MP3 player can go as high as 120 decibels.
Along with concerns of hearing damage there is also worry about
accidents. A large insurance company claims in a study that about
10 percent of vehicle/pedestrian accidents involved the pedestrian
wearing some kind of headphones. About half of those involved
people under 18.
They even have a name for them -- PODestrians.
But how do you know when loud is too loud?
"If someone else can hear the music you should turn down the
music so nobody else can hear it," said Kaczmarski. "That's your
first clue that it's too loud."
There is a great deal of information on noise levels and how they can affect you on the Internet, including --